Search JTA's historical archive dating back to 1923

Ida Kaminska Dead at 80

May 23, 1980
See Original Daily Bulletin From This Date

Funeral services will be held here tomorrow for lda Kaminska, a leading performer in the classical Yiddish theater for more than 60 years. She died yesterday at the age of 80.

Miss Kaminska, who come to the United States in 1968, was known to generations of Yiddish theatergoers in Poland. But she was best known outside the Yiddish stage for her performance in the 1966 Czechoslovak film, “The Shop on Main Street,” where she played an old Jewish shopkeeper who could not understand why she was being forced out of her store and home by the Nazis.

Born in 1899 in Odessa, she came from a theatrical family. Her father, Avram Izhak Kaminska, founded the Yiddish Theater in Moscow and had his own company. Her mother, Esther Rachel Kaminska, was known as the “mother of the Yiddish stage.” Although her parents put her on the stage when she was five, lda had originally planned to become a psychiatrist. But after her parents gave her a leading role in an operetta and she received a worm reception she decided to remain in the theater.

With her first husband, Zygmunt Turkow, whom she later divorced, she established the Warsaw Yiddish Art Theater which performed until 1931. When the Nazis invaded Poland, she and her family fled and ended up in Soviet Central Asia. The family was first courted but later got into trouble with Soviet authorities. Although Ida was allowed to return to Poland after the war, her daughter, Ruth, was imprisoned for several years before the family was reunited in Poland.

Miss Kaminska was helped by the Polish government in establishing the Jewish National Theater of Poland which she headed until she left for the U.S. in 1968 in the wake of anti-Semitism in Holland kindled by the 1967 Six-Day War.

Miss Kaminska and her husband, Marian Melman, who died last year, continued to work after their arrival in the U.S. They fried unsuccessfully to start a Yiddish theater in Israel and in New York. Her most recent appearance was this month, in Peter Weiss’ “The Investigation” in which she spoke Yiddish while others translated. it into English. Miss Kaminska, who lived with her daughter, Ruth, here, wrote her autobiography “My Life, My Theater,” which was published in 1973.

Recommended from JTA